|Aerial Rendering in recent online advertising|
Unfortunately, because the permitting process for the apartments was administrative, and didn't require a hearing at the Planning Commission, the proposed driveway and the concurrent tax abatement application have become proxies for judgment and opinion on the whole design of this portion of the development. And so we get a bunch of spillover from the more narrow questions. This isn't surprising: The community deserves a chance to weigh in on the whole apartment configuration and design, and a process that doesn't give the community this opportunity is flawed. As important as this project is, public design charettes might well have been in order.
The Drive and Access
If we spent as much energy on School safety as we seem to be spending on talking about Carousel safety, boy-oh-boy, things would be better!
According to a traffic analysis (which for the moment we will take at face value), the proposed apartments would add in round numbers about 1000 trips per day, and an estimated 60 trips during peak pm traffic. Overall, that's less than one car per minute. If you haven't stood and counted traffic, maybe that seems like a lot. But it's not!
|Concern about Orchard Heights and Doaks Ferry|
|4 Schools near Orchard Heights|
At Straub Middle School, Orchard Heights has about 5,000 daily trips, at West Salem High and Chapman Elementary, just south of Orchard Heights, Doaks Ferry has about 4,500 trips. (City Traffic Counts can be seen here.)
The roads are wider, the speeds are faster, and both the kids and cars far more numerous.
Alarm about an increase in traffic at the Carousel is in many ways more about development style than traffic substance. And in fact, the actual letter from the Carousel says, "the Salem Riverfront Carousel Board of Directors opposes the proposed development of multi-family dwellings west of the railroad tracks and south of the Carousel." Their opposition isn't just about the driveway.
It is about the encroachment on park land, what that looks like, and how it impacts the park and Carousel, and not so much about actual road capacity and parking lot safety.
Indeed, style and site plan are the reasons to be concerned. The apartment's design is rather middling, not in harmony with the park, and not in a configuration of uses optimal (or even just "pretty good") for downtown or a vibrant mixed-use development.
|Proposed Design: View from carousel lot near playground equipment,|
looking mostly east/southeast
|For comparison, housing and retail on SE Division in Portland|
Also interesting, and perhaps more important, are some other points. Allowing this access will require:
- Amending the Riverfront Park Master Plan, which currently does not permit a driveway for a private development
- Widening park pathways for Fire and Emergency response access from Union Street
- A Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund Act 6(f) conversion, the process for trading new land and incorporating it into the park for the loss of the privatized portion lost to the Boise development.
A request for the permanent private use of a City of Salem park property is very rare. While such a request would typically be presented to Council with a staff recommendation for denial, this proposal is quite unique given its location and history. Given that this proposal presents both opportunities for the community and possible negative impacts to the City's premier events park, staff believes that the decision to grant the access easements is ultimately a policy decision for Council. Thus, staff's recommendation to Council is to "consider" the request for access, rather than the standard recommendation to "accept" or "deny."Others have criticized the punt, saying staff and Council should hold out for a better design and therefore should recommend a denial of this request. But if staff really believe this is the best the developer can do, then the punt is understandable.
As for the tax abatement, it may or may not be good policy, but the proposed apartments appear to meet the City's Multi-Unit Housing Tax Incentive Program, as it is written. Since the apartments are already in an urban renewal zone, this amounts to kind of double subtraction - there won't be a "tax increment" to go into the urban renewal district, either. But there may be no good reason to deny the application.
The report on the abatement application contains some useful information, however.
|The rents they are seeking still seem on the high side|
In the staff report there's also a budget, placing the current estimated project cost at $17,630,254.
For more on the development and its design:
- On the first proposal to close State Street at the Carousel, see here, here, here, here, and here.
- On the south block, the warehouse shell and condos, see here, here, here, and here.
- On the park block with the apartments, see here, here, here, and here.
- And in less detail, on the nursing home facility, see here, here, here, and here.
Other Stuff - Including Good News for Bikes
There's a proposal to incorporate additional, permanent bike parking into the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Plan!
For several years downtown businesses and community members have expressed interest in more bicycle facilities downtown, including expanded bicycle parking. Several temporary bike parking facilities, including as part of First Wednesday's have demonstrated continued demand for new facilities. Expanded bike parking strengthens several of the Mobility Study recommendations, including development of Family Friendly Bikeways, and is expected to encourage more individuals to ride downtown for shopping, dining, and events year- round....Yes, Please!
Many cities, including Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene, offer covered bike parking in their central business districts. Constructing amenities that encourage more bicycling in downtown, including covered bike parking, has been voiced by the community for several years, including as a priority in the Vision 2020 Action Plan.
There's a report on the North Downtown Housing Investment Strategy. Interestingly, it has a chart on rents:
|2 and 3 BR average in the $800s|
In a survey, the ability to walk and bike also outranked driving by a significant margin! Are the proposed Boise apartments actually too auto-centric?
|Walking and Biking outrank Driving!|
Somewhat buried is a proposal to apply for an EPA Brownfields Assessment grant. It would be interesting to know more about the sites potentially for study. The staff report mentions historic buildings needing asbestos or lead paint abatement; gas stations, dry cleaners, and other manufacturing sites; former agricultural or industrial sites, including state institutions; and mystery sites about which little is known. One wonders if the North State Hospital parcel is one of the biggies in mind here.
In all the hullabaloo about the Carousel and Boise, the continuation of the Parking Task Force recommendations has been less visible. There is actually very little public comment in the information packet. As others have pointed out, conversation risks being one-sided right now, as opponents have largely withdrawn from the public process and put their energy into the petition drive. (It is not easy, however, to have full faith in the public process; so often by the time a matter reaches Council, the decision is already made and it's too late for more than public comment theater.)
And finally there's a brief report on the Downtown Economic Improvement District, taken over by the City when it terminated the agreement with the Salem Downtown Partnership.